In recent years, organizations all over the country have started to recognize the importance of making everyone feel safe, included, and comfortable in the workplace. As a result, the modern office has become more diverse in terms of gender, race, sexual orientation, and religion.
However, we still have a long way to go when it comes to making the workplace more inclusive towards people with disabilities — especially to those who are blind or visually-impaired. This has undoubtedly discouraged and obstructed visually-impaired adults from pursuing a full time job, and it is estimated that more than 70% of them remain unemployed today.
With that said, let's take a look at some of the challenges visually-impaired employees face in the workplace, as well as discuss how organizations can achieve inclusivity today.
1. Negative employer and colleague perception
One of the biggest barriers that blind people have to overcome in the workplace is negative employer perception. In fact, a study on employer implicit attitudes toward visually-impaired people highlights how most employers tend to automatically connect competence with sighted people and incompetence with those who are visually-impaired. However, this assumption has long been disproven, as visually-impaired people can perform most jobs sighted people can — given the right accommodations and adjustments.
In addition, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 gives individuals with visual impairments access to vocational rehabilitation training programs, resources, and services. They prepare them to face any employment opportunities they might be interested in and help them find more success in the workplace.
2. Lack of assistive technology
Another huge challenge that visually-impaired folks face in the workplace is the lack of assistive or adaptive technology. However, employers have no excuse in making content easily accessible and readily available to employees who have visual impairments, because it can be done simply by choosing easy-to-read fonts, a bigger font size, higher contrast, minimal pop-ups and boxes, as well as a color scheme that’s comfortable for colorblind users.
Furthermore, employers should also go the extra mile and readily provide large monitors, magnification software, adapted keyboards, voice recognition, screen reader software, and scanners with Optical Character Recognition to fully accommodate and unleash the potential of their visually-impaired employees.
3. Non-inclusive language
Visually-impaired people often encounter terms and phrases that perpetuate stereotypes and false ideas. This also often happens in professional settings, as not everyone is aware of how significant their words can affect others. In addition, some non-inclusive words and phrases are commonly used by many, including by those with disabilities, due to habit. However, everyone in the workplace should be more conscious of what they say in order to positively reshape how we communicate about visual impairment in society. Furthermore, it is also imperative for workplaces to use inclusive communication tools and methods, both in meetings and casual conversations, as this helps accommodate those who are visually-impaired.
Organizations today should strive to make their workplaces more inclusive and accommodating to those who have visual disabilities. Aside from complying with existing disability rights laws, cultivating an inclusive workplace also gives organizations access to the untapped talent pool of those with disabilities.
This shift in workplace culture should start at the top. For this reason, organizations should hire managers who have a good understanding of how to create a workplace where everyone feels heard, valued, and included. Thankfully, there is no shortage of these professionals, as top universities continually produce business and management graduates who are well-trained in creating an inclusive workplace. What’s more, managers can easily upskill to gain relevant information too, as most universities offer online MBAs where students can choose a concentration in management, which increases their competency in areas such in human resource management, interpersonal management, or leadership.
Organizations shouldn’t be too worried about hiring managers from non-traditional educational backgrounds. Universities that offer such programs make sure their curriculum addresses current industry needs, as well as ensure that their students constantly learn from the partnerships they’ve nurtured with various companies around the globe.
In addition, it’s also important for organizations to invest their time in creating a diversity and inclusion training program. In these programs, organizations should allow their visually-impaired employees to speak up and provide feedback. By doing this, it allows organizations to address biases and prejudices, as well as give a proper solution to the challenges faced by those who are visually-impaired. Furthermore, a well-executed diversity and inclusion training program can also significantly benefit an organization, as it's been noted to elevate employee morale, drive bottom-line business success, and improve customer satisfaction. All of this, in turn, makes the office a better place for everyone.
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